Govt can't deny info on pvt entity accessible under any law: CIC

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New Delhi, Jan 1 (UNI) The Central Information Commission(CIC) has ruled that government or any other public authority cannot refuse to give any information concerning a private entity, if it can be accessed by them under any law.

Categorically stating that the facts, if available with any public authority, must be given to an applicant seeking information under the Right to Information Act, the CIC directed the Union Ministry of Mines to yield withing 15 days the information about the Government interest in BALCO sought by Laxmi Chauhan of Korba, Chattisgarh.

The Ministry had refused to entertain the application on the ground that it related to a company which was no more a public sector undertaking as the Government had already disinvested major stakes in it.

Mr Chauhan, in his application to the CIC, said a PIL has been filed in the Apex Court against the Management of BALCO and Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd, which has recently taken over the management of BALCO and, therefore, the information was needed for presenting his viewpoint before the Court.

In the CIC's views the appellant was seeking a copy of the certificate issued by a chartered accountant certifying the gross block of all fixed assets (without depreciation) of Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd concerning financial year ending March 31, 2005. ''The information must be available in the annual report of the company, which under law is to be submitted to shareholders. Being a shareholder of the company, with representation on its Board of management, the information sought must be available with the Ministry of Mines, and what is available with the Ministry cannot be denied to an applicant under the Right to Information Act,'' it said.

Besides, the CIC noted that the appellant had sought the amount of investment made by the Ministry in 540 KW captive power plant and in 24,500 MT capacity Smelter Project, and not the information about the Plant or about the Smelter Project itself, and that he wants to know only the amount actually invested by the Government, which is an information that the Ministry as public authority cannot deny to an applicant.

The CIC held as untenable the argument that the information is not available with the Ministry.

If the Ministry has made any investment, it should be so stated.

If no investment has been made, then also a reply to that effect must be given to an information seeker under the Right to Information Act,'' said the Commission.

Moreover, the appellant did not ask for any information from the Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd. (BALCO). He has submitted an application under the Right to Information Act to the Ministry of Mines. The information sought by him is not about BALCO per se, but about the Government interest in BALCO, said the Commission.

The CIC delivered the decision on December 27.

UNI NAZ AKJ GC1658

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